When India’s biggest production house joins hands with Pakistan’s most famous pop star to release a non-film album, the symbolism of the cultural collaboration is worth noting. Yash Raj Music (the music subsidiary of Yash Raj Films) is the distributor of Ali Zafar’s new album Jhoom. Fresh after his charming film debut in Tere Bin Laden, this is Zafar’s third music album sliding in right before his upcoming film encore in Yash Raj’s Mere Brother Ki Dulhan. Known for peppy and playful chartbusters such as ‘Channo’ and ‘Sun Re Sajania,’ Zafar’s latest offering is refreshingly mellow and soulful. It is, one could say, his maturing as an artist.
The album has twelve tracks that are split into three different moods. The first three tracks bear the lighthearted tone for which Zafar is so well known. However, this tone is dialed down here as is evident from the very first track. Jhoom relies heavily on tabla beats, as Zafar croons ‘dil jhoom jhoom chale.’ The song has an intoxicating quality to it and the versatility of Zafar’s voice saves it from being a heavy start to the album.
Tu Jaanay Na is a much lighter song and has a youthful innocence to it. Zafar adopts an easygoing tone with this one, and combined with the music that is reminiscent of 90’s pop ballads, this one makes for a very hummable song. The next track Jab Say Dekha Tujh Ko continues in the same vein as the previous song but sounds more like a graduated version with slightly deeper lyrics but still maintaining the ballad feel. It’s also a much shorter track, which makes it seem like a sequel to the previous song.
The next set of songs takes the album into a more sober direction, all revolving around the theme of loss. Jee Dhoondta Hai is about longing, and such a theme needs inspiring music and singing to keep it alive. Unfortunately, this track is quite flat. Perhaps less synthesized music would have made it more enjoyable.
There are moments in many of Zafar’s music that he expresses nuances of Kishore Kumar. Both voices have similar versatility, with the ability to sound just as convincing as playful and fun or sorrowful and contemplative. Zafar reminds the most the late singer in the track Koi Umeed. The song is about heartbreak and a loss of hope and Zafar brings to it the most convincing sadness in his rendition. A much more moving track than the previous one. Jaan-E-Man starts off as a haunting number but soon dissolves into an overly slow and somewhat tedious track that never quite finds its ground.
The last group of songs is of well-known sufi-folk-rock numbers from Zafar’s Coke Studio performances. For those of you familiar with Zafar’s earlier hit ‘Sun Re Sajania’ will recognize the tune of Nahin Ray Nahin as the middle verses of that song, but with a slower tempo and slightly altered lyrics. Yar Dhadhi Ishq and Dastan-E-Ishq are Zafar’s most well known Coke Studio performances, both Punjabi folk songs. ‘Yar Dhadhi Ishq’ maintains the spirit of the original performance but the album version ‘Dastan-E-Ishq’ seems to be missing the vigor (in both music and vocals) of its original. Zafar tops off the original tracks in the album with a very spiritual and trance-like Allah Hu. It’s a simple track that blends a modern soft-rock beat to the chanting and gives an apt ending to this album by noticeably evolved artist.
The last two tracks in the album are the R&B version of Jhoom and dhol version of Dastan-E-Ishq, respectively. The R&B mix works in parts but overall sounds awkward with the original song. The dhol mix speeds up the original but still doesn’t leave much of an impact. The album could have done without both mix versions.
Zafar is an immensely talented artist and this album proves his dynamic voice once again. It’s a much more pensive album than his previous releases, venturing deeper emotionally and experimenting more with moods. My picks are ‘Jhoom,’ ‘Jab Say Dekha Tujh Ko,’ ‘Koi Umeed’ and ‘Nahin Ray Nahin.’ Check it out!
Dear NRI readers why not connect with us on the following social media platforms.